Pine River-Backus Students Remove Buckthorn
Students at Pine River-Backus exchanged their textbooks for work gloves today. The school is teaming up with the DNR to remove buckthorn from their school forest.
“They’re cleaning up buckthorn, they have a lot of buckthorn here in the forest,” said MN DNR Program Forester Alex Brothen.
There is a lot of work to get done in the forest, but the first step for the students was in the classroom.
“They had to make posters, research what buckthorn was, come up with a plan of how we are doing this; they had to map, they talked to the elementary kids what buckthorn is and what we are doing; they will be presenting to the school board,” said Pine River-Backus Junior High science teacher Deb Schlueter.
Before the students started to work on the project, most of them had no idea what the invasive species was.
“No, I had no clue what it is, it looked like an ordinary tree to me,” said eighth grader Evan Ramsburg. “It just looked like a plant at first, but now that we are getting into it, we know what it is,” said fellow eighth grader Qwincie Johnson.
But now, they are ready to put their words into action.
“It’s an invasive species that wherever it grows it will dominate that area and won’t let anything else grow because it densely populates that area that is grows in,” said eighth grader Emma Pflugshaupt.
A buckthorn tree is easily recognizable as it still has leaves and shows off many thorns.
“To get rid of it, we need to go in with loppers and big tools to get rid of the bigger plants, pull the smaller stuff and use some herbicide to make it go away,” said Schlueter.
“Buckthorn is an issue statewide; some places, there are higher amounts of it. I notice it a lot we’ve got our older cities so the older city of Brainerd, the older city of Pine River, but we also have it out in our forest as well,” Brothen said.
Buckthorn presents a big issue, but it’s an even bigger learning opportunity.
“This is huge; we have had this buckthorn problem for a long time and it’s always fun to see the students actually doing stuff and to be able to be out in the world, helping out,” Schuelter said.
About 400 students from grades 7-12 were out in the forest today and will continue the work tomorrow. The project was made possible by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.